D-II Championship: Top Seeds Planted
Nov. 29, 2008
Courtesy of North Alabama
CLEVELAND, Miss. – The fifth ranked University of North Alabama Lions avenged their only loss of the season with a 52-34 rout of fourth ranked Delta State in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs at Parker Field at McCool Stadium.
The win sends UNA into the Division II semifinals against Northwest Missouri State, with the site to be announced.
It will be UNA’s ninth semifinal appearance and third under current head coach Mark Hudspeth. The Lions have won three Division II National Championships in 1993, 1994 and 1995, lost in the finals in 1985 and in the semifinals in 1980, 1983, 2003 and 2005.
North Alabama built a 31-14 halftime advantage and then marched for a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. The Lions extended their lead to 45-14 before settling for the 21-point victory.
UNA quarterback A.J. Milwee completed 24 of 35 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns and he also rushed for one TD. Milwee finished the game as UNA's leading rusher with 51 yards on 14 carries. The Lions had 434 total yards with 153 yards rushing and 281 yards passing. Delta State gained 541 total yards, the most allowed by UNA this season. DSU quarterbacks completed 36 of 57 passes but UNA picked off four passes and recovered two fumbles.
On UNA’s first possession Delta State’s Matt Melton picked off a tipped Milwee pass and returned it to the North Alabama 32 yardline. It snapped a streak of 129 straight passes by Milwee without an interception. Melton also had the last pick of Milwee back on October 16 when the two schools met in Cleveland.
The Statesmen moved the ball to the UNA 37 before a Lion blitz forced a fumble by DSU quarterback Garrett DeWitt and North Alabama’s Bobby Brooks recovered. UNA then went on an eight-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Milwee was 3-for-3 for 57 yards on the drive and capped the drive with a one-yard TD dive. Tom Schneider’s PAT made it 7-0 with 5:09 left in the opening period.
Delta State quickly answered that score with a seven-play, 60-yard TD drive of its own. Ben Stallings took in a 24-yard pass from Blake Barnes and bulled his way to the end zone. Tom Santos PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 2:54 left in the first quarter.
UNA scored on its following possession, going 73 yards on nine plays. Milwee hit Joemal Campbell with a 15-yard touchdown pass for the score and Schneider’s PAT made it 14-7 with 13:59 left in the second period. The TD pass was Milwee’s ninth straight completion following the interception.
Following his TD reception, Campbell broke through to block a Delta State punt and set up another Lion score. Schneider came on to boot a 29-yard field goal with 10:51 left in the half to make it 17-7. It was his 18th made field goal of the season and tied the UNA single-season record.
Another special teams blunder by the Statesmen set up UNA’s next score as DSU fumbled a punt and the Lions’ Sam Hathorn recovered at the DSU one yard line. Mike McLendon scored on the next play and Schneider’s PAT made it 24-7 with 8:15 left in the half. It was McLendon’s 16th TD of the season.
UNA’s Chad Daniel stopped a Delta State scoring opportunity when he picked off a DSU pass at the North Alabama four yard-line.
Later in the half, DSU was backed up to its own five when a DeWitt pass was picked off by Darron Dampier, who returned it 16 yards to the end zone. The pick tied the UNA single season record with 30 by the 2008 team. Schneider’s kick made it 31-7 with 1:02 left in the half. Schneider’s kick gave him 123 points for the season, which broke the school single-season scoring mark of 122 points set by DeMarcus Blount in 2002 and 2003.
Delta State turned he tide slightly before the half as DeWitt hit Greg Betteron with a 53-yard pass to the UNA 16. With just four seconds left, the Statesmen took a shot at the end zone and DeWitt hit Trevar Deed over the middle for a touchdown with one tenth of second left in the half. Santos PAT made it 31-14 at the half.
For the season, UNA has outscored its opponents 353-78 in the first half.
North Alabama took the second half kickoff and calmly marched 77-yards for a touchdown. Milwee hit Bobby Williams for a key first down on a fourth-and-three call at the DSU 43. Milwee then hit Ed Gant out in the left flat and he took it the final 12yards to the end zone. It was Gant’s 10th touchdown reception of the season. Schneider’s PAT made it 38-14 with 10:59 left in the third quarter. Schneider’s kick broke the NCAA Division II record for consecutive PATS made in a season with 71. It broke the mark of 70 by Pittsburg State’s Nate Alleman in 2006.
On the ensuing possession, Delta State drove deep into UNA territory before Michael Johnson picked off a DeWitt pass and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. Schneider’s kick made it 45-14 with 7:38 left in the third quarter.
Trevar Deed caught a 42-yard TD pass from DeWitt with 5:05 left in the third to make it 45-21, but UNA answered with a 75-yard, nine-play drive. Campbell pulled in a 20-yard TD pass from Milwee with 1:48 left in the third to make it 52-21.
UNA RECORD BREAKERS ON SATURDAY::
MOST FIELD GOALS MADE IN A SEASON: 19 by Tom Schneider. Broke mark of 18 by James Knowles in 1985 and Yuta Fukuda in 2005.
MOST POINTS SCORED IN A SEASON: 129 by Tom Schneider. Broke mark of 122 by DeMarcus Blount in 2002 and 2003.
MOST TEAM INTERCEPTIONS IN A SEASON: 32 by 2008 Lions. Broke mark of 30 in 1995.
GSC RECORD FOR INTERCEPTIONS IN A SEASON: 32 by 2008. Ties mark of 32 by Valdosta State in 1986.
NCAA DIVISION II RECORD:
MOST CONSECUTIVE PATS MADE IN A SEASON: 72 by Tom Schneider. Broke mark set by Nate Alleman of Pittsburg State in 2006